Highland Ambush is a Scotch Ale in BridgePort Brewing‘s “Big Brews” series, and one with a bit of a history: BridgePort first brewed it back in the 1980s as an homage to then-pub manager Stuart Ramsay. BridgePort resurrected the beer December of last year, and added the twist of partially aging it in fresh bourbon barrels.
Interestingly, I didn’t read the label close enough before I started drinking Highland Ambush: I hadn’t realized it was barrel-aged, but you can see in my notes that the bourbon barrel wood has a strong presence even so.
At 6.8% alcohol by volume, it’s not a “Big Brew” in the over-the-top Imperial sense, and it doesn’t have to be. It has a nice presence and the bourbon barrel aging brings a lot to the table.
Appearance: Dark brown, nutty and a touch gold at the edges. Wood putty-colored generous head. Nice legs as it falls.
Smell: Bready with a note of roasted malt. Some hints of spicy rich leather?—perhaps cedar or similar. (Hops?) [Note: I wrote in "bourbon" after I figured out what it was.]
Taste: Toffee-rich and that spiciness from the nose spills into the big malt notes—tobacco, “from the wood,” something like that. [Realized it was barrel-aged after this point.] Nice touch of heat and interplay of caramelly dark malts. Tasty, spicy.
Mouthfeel: Prickly texture complementing a medium-full body.
Overall: Didn’t know at first it was 1/3 aged in oak bourbon barrels. Malty, tasty, and enjoyable, and I’m digging the spicy wood characters it’s full of. Bourbon comes out in the nose as it warms.